A Page From Flip’s Playbook & Phil Chenier On Wizards Setting Screens
I managed to survive the recent heavy snowfall in D.C., and all the cutesy names people were calling it — #SNOMG, Snowpocalypse, etc. — but in the process, somehow found myself taking a little break from writing/blogging. But now I’m back, and hopefully a bit refreshed and motivated to keep on keepin’ on through the rest of this season nightmare.
Apologies if, at times, I tend to get a little negative/overboard on this site, or on Twitter (mostly Twitter) … and no, I’m not writing this as a reaction to JaVale McGee, via Twitter, dubbing myself, Mike Prada of Bullets Forever, and Michael Lee of the Washington Post, “haters” after Friday’s game against the Magic, also suggesting that we should work for TMZ. (JaVale did this after re-Tweeting something that each of us had Tweeted, links below). Actually, I’m not reacting to anything anyone has said to me, just doing a little self-check here.
But back to McGee for second, I really don’t think anyone was “hating” on him, but rather commenting on game observations/understandably reflecting on frustrations. But if the feelings of young JaVale got hurt, then I suppose apologies are in order. I responded to his call-out with a couple Tweets of my own, nothing defensive, but mostly with a some classic music tracks. Others chose to remain silent with, perhaps, the intent of approaching McGee in person. All and all, it’s really a shoulder shrugging, no biggie situation. In other words, I could care less.
But back to my, at brief times, penchant for negativity (again, this is mostly on Twitter). It happens, oh well. One must find a way to vent about witnessing frustrating, unacceptable effort while not going overboard … in addition to acting as a balance to the always positive light emitted from official team outlets (or the non-bias of main-stream media outlets). That’s what each of those entities are supposed to do, but speaking specifically in terms of the former, there are only so many ways to polish up a pile of crap before giving up because of the stink.
I’ll try to stay medium, but there’s no guaranteeing. Calling things like I see them, that’s why this blog is named Truth About It in the first place.
Moving on …
I’d been composing a longer post recapping the Jekyll and Hyde game versus Orlando with screen shots, etc., but have been unable to finish so far. I still intend on posting, but until then, I wanted to highlight one specific, creative play from the Magic game and a corresponding quote from Comcast’s Wizards television analyst, and one of the franchise’s all-time great players, Phil Chenier.
First, the play … some double screening action:
(And apologies for the extra low quality of these screen shots, the Wizards-Orlando game was switched to Comcast’s non-HD channel because ratings for the Washington Capitals have been shooting through the roof. Happy Caps fans? You deserve it.)
Randy Foye has the ball on the left side, three-point line extended, and is guarded by Jason Williams, who sees Mike Miller, guarded by Vince Carter, heading in his direction as a possible screener.
Carter, over-playing Miller, seems to be most concerned with Brendan Haywood, who appears to be setting a side-screen for Miller — great if it works, but I believe Haywood is more of a decoy at this point. That being said, Carter defends this action about the best he can, or should be.
Williams is already a step behind Foye after Miller’s screen — much to Stan Van Gundy’s chagrin, Williams didn’t seem to step out high enough on Foye to avoid the screening action — but then Haywood pivots and sets a second ball screen on Williams.
Haywood doesn’t make solid screening contact with Williams (at least by looking at the images directly below), but provides just enough of a hindrance to give Foye another extra step.
Let’s take a look from above where you can see this double-screen develop much better. With Dwight Howard playing back, as you would expect, Williams must cut off Foye prior to the second screen so that the interior of the Magic defense is not penetrated. He doesn’t.
With Howard showing that he might step up, Foye doesn’t hesitate and pulls up for a jumper. The part of Randy’s offensive game which seems to work the most is his ability to pull up off screens. Williams, trying to keep up (and you can see more from the images below how he gets caught up on Haywood), comes from behind and fouls Foye, causing him to miss, but sending him to the line for two free-throws, which he makes.
It’s right after this play when Phil Chenier points out just one of the myriad of issues with this Washington Wizards team, setting consistent screens.
“The one thing I notice that’s different between Washington and other teams, when Washington sets … now Brendan sets a pick hard enough to force Jason Williams to have to change his direction and then try and hustle back in, commits a foul … but I don’t know if our guys consistently set solid picks to force the defense to really make some adjustments, much like we see when Dwight Howard sets a pick, when Gortat sets a pick.”
There have been countless times this season when a Wizard has either committed an offensive foul trying to set a screen, or left much too early, trying get into offensive position for themselves, and rendering the pick ineffective — and I’m not talking about when there is an obvious opportunity to slip a screen because the defense is over-playing the ball.
So, with the Wizards, who is at fault?
The players? The coaches? Is it an indictment of the entire United States basketball system that lacks core fundamentals? It’s a complicated answer that probably covers all of the above.
But if the Wizards, especially those such as JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche, who have been called out on their screening fundamentals before, are ever to run Flip Saunders’ offense as close to perfection as possible, they need to get their act together and make the simple things a habit instead of something that the trying-to-think player forgets.